J Kelly 3 Heroes
Una McLean revolts against the Poll Tax
‘I’m enjoying it a lot because there’s
so much you can do,‘ says Gerard Kelly of his first venture into farce with 7:84‘5 Revolting Peasants. ‘The worrying thing is that you can overload it. I‘m terrible for that. I go around shouting “Yeah, you could sit on him and you could do this,“ and we make these ridiculous bits of business, we all have utter hysterics and then I come in the next morning and think, "that’s so tacky“. There‘s nothing for losing your actors‘ confidence like saying to them “I’m sorry, I must have been on heroin last night when I thought that up, lets cut it out now." ‘
Revolting Peasants begins in the classic farce manner with a deception. This isn‘t hiding-the-secretary-from-the-vicar territory, but something a lot closer to reality; the declaration on a Community Charge form that a thriving husband has popped his clogs. The action stems from there, catalysed by a visit from the poll tax inspector. Kelly, who directs the piece, feels that it is valid even after the great U-turn which has signalled the end ofthe tax.
‘Obviously, from the moment I commissioned Patrick Prior to write the piece, I couldn‘t have foreseen what was going to happen,‘ he says. ‘But the most positive thing we can do is to make it a celebration of the demise of the poll tax. It‘s a farce about the farce that was the poll tax. It’s one of the few times in my life when public protest has actually had some kind of positive effect and it’s
good that we can go along and have a
laugh and celebrate.‘
In spite of7z84‘s moralistic credentials, Kelly is wary of preaching to his audience. ‘The play works on the premise that simply because you are here, you accept that the poll tax is unjust. So it begins with that and then it‘s wonderful because it never patronises. I hate
i i i
Michel Tremblay: the greatest living dramatist writing in French? The renowned Academicians over the Channel will almost certainly dispute
that. For Tremblay does not write in the
classical style of Hugo and Zola, but in the language of the Quebec streets, ‘Joual’ or horse-language. What the Academie Francaise will see as a woelul lack of culture, however, has not held Tremblay back. Since his first play in 1965, nineteen others have made it onto the stage and provoked the kind oi praise referred to above. Scottish audiences received Tremblay with open arms when The Gold Sisters was translated into Scots last year. The team behind that translation, Blll Findlay, Martin Bowman and the Tron Theatre, are presenting two more of Tremblay’s
plays, The Real Wurld and Hosanna, at
this year’s Maytest. I spoke to Bill Findlay about the problems of turning Quebecois into broad Scots.
‘The relationships of Joual to standard French, and Scots to English are very similar,’ says Findlay. ‘There’s that difference of class and status. Also, there are qualities of a dialect that are lacking in the standard language which, being more homogenous, has a certain polish about it. Polish doesn’t quite fit in the case of Tremblay’s work.’
The Real World is a largely autobiographical piece based on Tremblay’s relationship with his
Elaine C. Smith in Michel Tremblay’s The Guid Sisters produced last year by The Tron Theatre
mother and sister, while Hosanna is a two-hander focusing on a gay love affair between a leather-clad biker and ‘his lover who dresses up like Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra’. Bill Findlay finds the challenge of translating rewarding but, only occasionally, inlurlating.
‘One of attractions of doing the translations is that it tests the resources of the Scots language itself. The music of his language is important and it allows you to draw upon Scots nuances in orderto achieve a kind of poetry. The only problems are located in the fact that Quebec, historically, has a strongly Roman Catholic culture and the Catholic Church has been very powerful. So lots of swear words are actually religious terms and they have a resonance in Quebec culture that they wouldn’t have here. So we’ve had to use the usual Anglo-Saxon derivatives to get round that.’ (Philip Parr)
The Real Wurld, Tron Theatre, throughout Mayfest; Hosanna, Tron Theatre, from“ May.
! Bebe Miller i Bebe Miller has, lorthe last two years, i been touted by the American dance
; establishment as one of their brightest
The reason for the delay could lie in her background. Miller is not from the traditional American dancer territory of leafy suburbia, but Brooklyn’s Lower East Side. Hertralning, too, was unconventional. Claiming to have Ieamed improvisation and composition before she knew how to pile, her experience came from the innovative dance classes of urban Brooklyn. But there was a temporary exposure to the more familiar ballet schools at age thirteen. ‘All of those little bun-heads and me from the projects,’ she commented to an American magazine. ‘I was so intimidated. Thank Godl couldn't do a decent pllé orl might have been stuck there.’
On her first visit to Scotland, Miller will be presenting the much acclaimed ‘Allles’ which takes to the limit her trademark of female equality. Most of the lifts (and there are many) are performed by the women in the company rather than the men. The
. second offering, Miller’s latest piece of
choreography, features Bebe herself
' dancing to Jimlllendrix.
Feeling impatience with the powers
As everybody in Britain knows, puppets are for kids. Proper theatre on the other hand is about words. whether it's the new writing of today or your actual Will Shakespeare.
So when Gavin Glover and Liz Walker set up Faulty Optic as a puppet theatre for grown-ups, they wondered how longit could last. Happily, three years on, they're thriving. That‘s thanks in part to tours in Spain and Germany, where puppetry is considered part of mainstream theatre. British audiences have also been responding favourably to their work, which Glover describes as ‘quite dark and yet there is humour there. It‘s very visual, with a storyline running throgh it all the same.‘
Their starting points are the puppets, mostly made ofleather, and the elaborate and animated settings these call home, made from anything and everything the puppeteers can lay their hands on. ‘We make a set and then play within it,‘ Glover explains. ’That determines the atmosphere and therefore the way the play goes.’
And the way Snufﬂtouse Dustlouse goes is fascinatineg bizarre. ’Part ofthe story.‘ says Glover, ‘is that this little character
5 who‘s on his own in his
little lonely world has to create electricity for himself, from somewhere. So he digs up cockroach cocoons, and he brings them to life and putsthem on this generator, which looks a bit like a mouse wheel. These things scamper around and create electricity and his
that be, Mlllerleels her dancing should reflect Issues such as homelessness 1
agit-prop theatre with people saying i new stars. Maybe overnight successes
lights come on.’ “Oh it’s all so depressing". It never i take even longer overthe pond than
Actions speaking louder
does that, there’s an interaction 5 here, for Miller is into her 40s and has and the environment that are all too than words? Could be between the actors and the audience; I been dancing professionally for over I frequently Ignored. ‘Maybe that’s why ; wmcth'ngthat " catch on “this tax is all wrong and we all agree ’ twenty years. She has also r Hendrix feels right just now,’ she has - ° - (Ken Cockbum)
on that.” There’s no standing on soap boxes and hitting people over
choreographed her own company since 1984, but has only recently achieved
said. ‘lt’stlme lorchange, radical i change.'(Phlllp Parr)
Snuf/house-Dustlouse or It '5 Under the Table
the kind of recognition that her brand of i sensual, fervently lndlvlduallstlc Bebe Millet and Company. Tramway.
dance deserves. Glasgow, Wed 8 May. i
the head.’ (Philip Parr) Revolting Peasants, King’s Theatre, Glasgow, Tue I4—Sat 18 May.
Mabel, The Third Eye Centre. Glasgow, Wed 8—Sat11 May.
The List 3- 16 May 1991 21